Stepping into the unknown at a dazzling new venue (Abu Dhabi GP preview)

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Short run-offs means little room for error at Abu Dhabi
Short run-offs means little room for error at Abu Dhabi

The first race at a new circuit is always something special – which is just as well because F1 is turning up at the last race of the season with both the titles decided.

Each new venue the world championship visits has to out-do the last for splendour. As the last newcomer was the spectacular Singapore night race, Abu Dhabi has its work cut out.

But not only have the race organisers created an impressive facility, the track itself looks an interesting proposition – not least because of the limited run-off areas.

The first pictures and video of the completed Yas Island circuit show some of the corners have little room for drivers to make mistakes.

This is because of the widespread use of Tecpro barriers around the circuit. The barriers have been in use in F1 for several years at tracks including Monza, Circuit de Catalunya and Singapore.

The Abu Dhabi track is among the first purpose-built facilities to use them extensively. Their improved impact absorption capabilities compared to standard barriers means run-off areas don’t have to be as large, the crowd can get closer to the action – and a mistake is potentially more costly for the drivers. (See videos of the barriers in action here).

That will be especially worrying as they’ll only have four hours of practice to get used to the circuit. And, being a new venue, it’s likely to be ‘green’ and very dusty.

That’s especially true of the pit lane where the drivers face another challenge – a tight and quite narrow exit that dips under the circuit. What are the chances of a spinning car blocking the exit at some point during the race?

With no data to go on besides simulations, all the teams are going to be feeling their way a little bit. But based on what we know about the circuit we can make some predictions of performance.

There’s a bias towards slow corners at the track, but with a couple of long straights too. That favours McLaren, partly thanks to their KERS.

But you can’t ignore the form of Red Bull, winners of the last two races. Nor Force India, for that matter, though as ever their potential depends upon Adrian Sutil not getting caught up in another unnecessary accident.

Drivers to watch

Jenson Button – Newly-crowned champion, what can he do now the pressure is off? If Rubens Barrichello really is leaving Brawn, Button won’t want to end the season getting beaten by him.

Robert KubicaBMW were back on form in Brazil and Kubica took an excellent second. The team’s future is in grave jeopardy but they’ve been stronger since their Singapore upgrade. Could Kubica even be a dark horse for victory?

Romain Grosjean – Various drivers have been linked with his seat at Renault after a shaky start to his F1 career and a particularly unimpressive race at Interlagos. Needs a result or his seventh Grand Prix could be his last.

Giancarlo Fisichella – Probably his last F1 start, certainly his last chance to score a point for Ferrari.

2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “Stepping into the unknown at a dazzling new venue (Abu Dhabi GP preview)”

  1. I hope BMW get a victory. It will help with somebody buying them for 2010. dont mind which driver, both have been driving the hardest through out the year and deserve a win.

    1. maybe i misunderstood, but they are already both. the only negotiation going on, is about their status at the 14th slot. it has beene rumoured that Williams want to take hands on Petronas, which is currently contracted to BMW, and the only way to do this, if BMW can’t start next year, that’s why Williams are against their start.
      however, the newcomer teams are also opposing it, but they have other motives. the new teams will be probably the slowest on the grid, and it does matter, if they are 26th or 28th. a race winning team in front of them is not really their dream.

      that’s what i think.

      1. Wouldn’t Petronas at that point just go to the “Lotus” team?

        1. Prisoner Monkeys
          27th October 2009, 10:52

          Petronas are not interested in working with a new team. They want a partnership with an established racing outfit.

      2. Prisoner Monkeys
        27th October 2009, 10:59

        Sorry, but there’s another story entirely here.

        Williams are opposed to a fourteenth team not because they want Petronas, but because they do not think fourteen teams is viable. Some of the circuits lack facilities; Adam Parr, the team’s CEO was quoted as saying he had heard some teams would be forced to set up on the grass in Melbourne.

        FOTA also have some issues with QADBAK – nobody really seems to know who they are. One of their representatives, Russell King, had assets seized in a court investigation. QADBAK is registered in the British Virgin Islands, but it has no assets aside from a name. They claim to represent the interests of families in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but one of the families they named denied all knowledge of it.

        As for the new teams, only Campos objected. We don’t know how the others voted; we only know Campos voted because Norbert Haug was livid. By this time had been fully vetted into FOTA, and it was decided that FOTA was opposed to QADBAK’s entry. Campos most likely voted because QADBAK needed unanimous approval, but theyoverstepped their bounds.

        Sponsorship and competitiveness have nothing to do with it – after all, Pertronas allegedly went to Williams (not the other way around) becaue they wanted to work with an established team instead of a new one.

        1. Petronas have not been linked with Lotus yet, I dont think they will be. Air Asia will be the principle sponsor of the team and I’m sure Proton will have their logos there as well. Petronas have had history with the sport, a good 13 years or so. Don’t think they would be interested in Lotus as a “new-comer” if they want to match their aspirations in MotoGP where they’ve sponsored Rossi’s Yamaha.

          Of course, if the Government decided otherwise, they wouldn’t have much choice. As we know, Lotus is backed by the government, and Petronas is owned by the government (semi owned)…so if they are directed to sponsor Lotus..they’d have to go down that alley

  2. Giancarlo Fisichella – Probably his last F1 start, certainly his last chance to score a point for Ferrari.

    And what about Kimi?

    One of the incentives (for me) will be watching Kimi’s last race with Ferrari, and I think he will be highly motivated to perform well. (And he will try to set the first FLAP “for sure”)

    From the moment we know nothing about Kimi’s future, maybe this coud be his last race in F1 (Little bit dramatic, here, but who knows!)

    1. And if Fisci doesn’t get any points for Ferrari, then what? Has it really been his dream to be a test driver for the Italian Stallion, rather than a winner with any other team?

      1. He has had a few races with Ferrari though and that he claims, was his dream.
        I doubt Fisi can do much more with the car to be honest. I’m more excited to watch Kimi’s last race with Ferrari!

        1. mclarenproject4
          27th October 2009, 9:59

          Kimi’s last race with Ferrari!

          Corrected! Kimi’s last race in F1. :(

  3. GO KIMMI!!! Im interested to see how the transition from evening to night is gonna go in this race.

    1. i doubt “the transition” will be noticeable, much like when your driving in the evening and then you think oh i better put my lights on, except the track will probably be lit up from the start, the whole night to day thing, just sounds a bit gimmicky (<check spelling?) when really, to me, it doesnt need that, as it seems to be a decent circuit, i know many people have their doubts, but compare this to valencia…….

      1. day to night even

    2. Didn’t the drivers complain about twilight conditions in Melbourne? The low sun was getting into their eyes. Perhaps the Abu Dhabi race starts after the sun goes down, and the transition is actually ‘gloomy to dark.’ I haven’t seen any exact details anywhere.

  4. I’ve seen the lap video and there is a new pit lane exit going through a tunnel.

    It seems to me, it’s quite long. If I’m correct, pit lane entrance is at the final turn (21) and the cars are exiting at the middle of turn 3.

    So, will be there some incentive for 1 pit stop strategy? Does anybody know something about the total length of the pit lane?

    1. Even at Interlagos, the cars pitting join directly after turn 3 on the back straight. But you see 3-stoppers used there sometime.

      I guess 2-stop should still be the norm. The pit-lane length factor is dwarfed by the ‘time spent on unsuitable tyres’ factor.

      Especially since, the track is green and very dusty offline, as reported by Coulthard and Brundle.

    2. if you want to work out the length by speed, it takes 18.5 seconds

      1. Thanks, but I was really trying to know how long will it take for a car making a pit stop.

        I’ve seen in the video it takes around those 18 seconds but only from boxes, not from the entrance to the pit lane.

        If crossing all pit lane would take around 25 secs. plus 6-10 Secs of changing tyres & refuelling, that will represent over a half minute pit stop, so maybe 1 stop could be a better possibility than in other tracks where pit stops are quicker.

  5. Seating Capacity – 41,093 Wiki

    Dunno why the figure was inflated to 50k by Keith. What are the rest going to do? Stand :P

    1. They probably have viewing mounds for general admission. I think practically every race that isn’t a street race has places like this.

    2. I think F1 Fanatic provides more reliable data than Wikipedia!

      1. Didn’t the original design include spectators in the ‘tunnel’ through the hotel? Is that a reality?

    3. Keith reported that they sold 50,000 tickets. He said nothing about the numbers of seats you plum.

      1. He said nothing about the numbers of seats you plum.

        This is the article heading

        Of course the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is sold out, they’ve only got 50,000 “seats”

        I dunno what you meant when you called me a plum.

        A plum usually refers to a fruit, so.. :P

  6. Presumably the rumours from a few months ago that the Abu Dhabi GP would be broadcast in HD have come to naught? If F1 isn’t in HD for 2010 it will be a travesty. Even Eastenders is in high-def these days.

    1. yeah but heather in hd aint good!!!!

  7. Goodbye Fisi…

    as your fan, it’s the end of an era.

    Now, lets go to my new favourite driver; Webber :)

  8. This is because of the widespread use of Tecpro barriers around the circuit. The barriers have been in use in F1 for several years at tracks including Monza, Circuit de Catalunya and Singapore.

    What’s the difference between these Tecpro barriers and the SAFER barriers the Indianapolis Motor Speedway developed?

    1. Tecpro ones are used in F1?

  9. I’m afraid Yas Marina track will be as boring as many other Tilke’s track. Straight-hairpin, straight-90° corner…is not what I mean to be a great track. Reminds me Singapore or Valencia.
    I hope that BMW can win the race, but I think the battle will be between Hamilton and Brawns (don’t know if Red Bull will perform on a flat, hot and “fast cornerless) track.
    Will be curious of Kimi also. I made a wonderful second half, and I’m quite disappointed he’s leaving Ferrari.
    Fisi and Grosjean, to me, are former drivers, already…

    1. Judging by the Red Bull’s pace at Singapore, I wouldn’t write them off just yet

    2. Coulthard and Brundle said there’s some hidden details of the track that the drivers will have to get used to and exploit. Watching the lap times tumble over the course of the weekend will be interesting.

      But in general, yes the recent new tracks have been a bit yawnsome. I like Istanbul Park though.

  10. I’m not really in favour of Abu Dhabi getting a GP, other than to see the spectacle of a Sunset race. It should look nice.

    The Hockenheim stadium looks interesting too, except the fans won’t be nearly as passionate as the crazy Germans ever are!

  11. If it’s a boring race, at least we’ll be able to see how nice it looks, unlike Singapore, which should be held in twilight and not at night.

    It should be a very interesting race with everyone wanting to prove their worth. Hope Fisi gets a point in that Ferrari, it doesn’t look the easiest car to drive by a long shot.

    The only thing that will spoil it will be the dust issue. I don’t understand why they can’t wash it down on a Thursday to get it as clean as possible, and then when no sessions are being run on the rest of the weekend, send cars round off-line to pick up any new dust and lay down some rubber. And not only would it helo overtaking, there are too many tracks on the calendar where qualifying 2nd instead of 3rd, or 4th instead of 5th, etc. becomes a disadvantage, and it’s not exactly like you can plan to qualify 3rd instead of 2nd.

    1. Oh, and at least it’ll be better looking than Turkey and Bahrain as well.

    2. The only cars suitable for laying down rubber for an F1 race are F1 cars. Even the GP2 rubber isn’t compatible and doesn’t improve things for the F1 sessions.

  12. Off Subject but I have come to think that the no testing is a bad idea guys like Romain Grosjean get no test and are thrown in to a car and expected to preform at peak. To me this is BS. From what I see it dont matter what feeder series you come from F1 is a completely different animal and I just think that getting the boot for not haveing time to develop is crazy.

    1. But Grosjean has not only performed poorly, he’s also responsible for quite a repair bill following unnecessary first-lap crashs. And compared to the other “mid-season roookies”, he’s clearly performed the worst. Jaime Alguersuari has managed to come close to Buemi’s pace and has outqualified Grosjean in the last three races (4:2 total), but has far less experience than Grosjean. Kamui Kobayashi had a much more impressive debut.
      If you don’t perform as a rookie or at least do something slightly impressive, you might not get a second chance. And with quite a few drivers looking for seats next season, Grosjean might not make it. He won’t even qualify as “experienced” driver for one of the new teams and it doesn’t look like Renault will retain him.

      1. he’s also responsible for quite a repair bill following unnecessary first-lap crashs.

        He also appears to live in a world with different physical laws: blaming Button for the shunt at Spa was ridiculous. If he’s going to talk like that then I have no support for him. Be gone!

        Why has Alguersuari got far less experience than Grosjean? They have similar F1 experience, are you referring to lower formulae? I think being plonked in an F1 car and being sent to tracks you’ve never seen before is quite a steep learning curve, and having a bit extra GP2/F3000 experience won’t get you a lot further I imagine.

  13. I hope Raikkonen goes back to McLaren…

  14. Nice looking track, it has to be said.

  15. Although it’s too early to judge the circuit until F1 cars have raced on it, the main concern seems to be the pit exit and the potential for the tunnel to be blocked if a driver makes a mistake in it. As it is a new circuit you would have thought they would have thought of this and made the tunnel wider.

    1. They must have at least one crane above that. Brundle/Coulthard mentioned that if a car is stranded or crashed in that narrow tunnel section, then a following driver won’t see it until they’re on top of it. And cranes won’t be able to extract a car from there. And the tunnel is after the pit exit line, so speed isn’t restricted and drivers will be going as fast as they can. Rosberg at Singapore has already proven that silly mistakes can be made.

  16. I am looking forward to seeing Lewis (2010 champion) do his thing!

  17. I hope Kimi goes all out and wins his last race with Ferrari……then I hope he comes back next year and beats Ferrari :)

  18. Toyota confirmed that Kabayashi will race at Abu Dhabi. I think thats another driver to keep an eye on, i was really impressed by his race in Brasil, maybe he can be the first japonese decent driver.

  19. oh,please,Kobayashi is a big time blocker,now that the WDC is over,they are going to punt this guy off

    1. Yeah I thought Kobayashi was brilliant in Brasil.

  20. Keith you forgot to mention Kimi Raikkonen because not only this will be his last race with Ferrari we don’t know where he will end up next season.& this will be Fernando Alonso’s last race with Renault for the second time in his career,the last time he did was when he moved to Mclaren but has to some back from there after 1 season.

    Hope BMW have a strong result & watch out for Kobayashi he can provide some entertaining race.

  21. Watched some pictures of the new track. It will be a very hot race, on a black tarmac and a city-track look like circuit.
    I hope I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the most interesting point is the box exit esses…ça va sans dire…

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